Navarro’s first graduate, Brown receives degree at 1947 commencement

Corsicana Daily Sun
September 3, 2016


When Navarro Junior College opened its doors in September of 1946, 80 percent of the 238 members of the original student body were veterans of World War II. They were taking advantage of the recently passed Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly called the GI Bill, which provided tuition for returning veterans. One of those students was William E. (Bill) Brown from Richland. Bill had attended Hill Junior College, but his studies were interrupted by his military service in the United States Navy during the War. When the campus opened at the Air Activities facility near Corsicana, Brown enrolled at Navarro Junior College to continue his education. At the end of the 1946-47 academic year, Brown had accumulated enough hours from Hill and Navarro to earn an associates degree.

Brown and 12 other students who had met their graduation requirements with combined hours from other colleges and Navarro were awarded associates degrees at Navarro’s first commencement June 2, 1947. Others receiving diplomas were Dwayne Bryson, Mary Ella Franks, Robert Jackson, Alfred Lord, Francine Nicholson, Eleanor Norton, Henry Ponder, Betty Ann Rawlinson, Charles Reed, Charles Skelton, Jimmie Ruth Thompson, and Sam Werner. Since his name was first on the list alphabetically, Bill Brown received the first degree from Navarro College.

Brown began a family tradition at Navarro. His son, Bill Brown, Jr., graduated from Navarro and earned a bachelors degree from Stephen F. Austin and a masters degree from Sul Ross. He enjoyed a long career as an educator in Mexia. His grandson, Russell Brown, completed his Navarro degree and then earned both a bachelors and masters degree from Stephen F. Austin State University. Russell joined the Navarro faculty as a business professor in 1997 and currently serves as the chairman of the business department. Russell’s wife Ann also graduated from Navarro and teaches part time for the college. Their daughter, Bethany, will graduate from Navarro in May of 2017, making four generations of the Brown family with Navarro degrees.

From that humble beginning of 13 graduates, Navarro has seen its numbers multiply over the past 70 years. At the 2016 commencement ceremony, 858 graduates received degrees and 535 more were awarded certificates. Navarro graduates are all over the world, successfully engaged in various occupations and professions. Like the Brown family, they took advantage of an affordable, accessible high quality college staffed by a caring and nurturing faculty to pursue their academic and professional goals. Those involved in establishing Navarro seven decades ago could not have envisioned the impact the College has had and continues to have on so many lives and families.

Source: Corsicana Daily Sun